At first the 7th July bombings in London were attributed to the anonymous, unknown forces of al-Qaida. There was shock when it was revealed that the bombers were brought up in Britain. People wondered how someone could let off a bomb that would inevitably kill people who had been through the same education system, used the same health service, seen the same TV programmes or even been of the same religious faith.
The video of Mohammad Sidique Khan gave an explanation for the massacres on public transport. “Your democratically elected governments perpetuate atrocities against my people and your support of them makes you responsible just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security, you will be our target. Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we’ll not stop this fight.” We’ve heard these sorts of threats many times before. They’re typical of the justifications given by all imperialist war-mongers. It is usual military practice to talk about how you’re providing protection or security, as you prepare the weapons that are going to be used indiscriminately against other victims of imperialist conflict.
It was also predictably hypocritical for Tony Blair to denounce an “evil ideology” and an “extremist minority” when the approach of the London bombers has so much in common with what’s put forward by the occupiers of Downing Street or the White House.
Their state, their values, their wars
Khan reduces the world to two parts. There are the governments who have intervened in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as all the people who live in the countries run by these governments, without distinction. Against this there is the ‘world of Islam’, presumably including everyone who professes faith in Allah, without any differentiation.
Blair has a similar approach. There is the ‘civilised world’ and there are those who support or incite ‘terrorism’ against it. You can see from the imperialist policy pursued by the Labour government since 1997 that they too make little distinction or differentiation when using military means to defend the interests of British capitalism. The bombings of Belgrade, Kabul and Baghdad were every bit as brutal and indiscriminate as car bombings in Iraq or suicide bombings on London transport. Whether it’s the ‘defence of civilisation’ or the ‘defence of Islam’ or ‘opposition to the occupation of Iraq’, these are just the banners under which bourgeois policies, capitalist interests are advanced.
What the ideologies - whether Islamic, New Labour, Republican or whatever - do is attempt to mystify us as to what’s really happening in the world. Take the example of the idea of ‘democratically elected governments’ being somehow responsive to the needs of ordinary people, in contrast to absolute monarchies like Saudi Arabia or military dictatorships such as Burma/Myanmar. In reality the capitalist state defends the interests of the ruling capitalist class, regardless of the details of the political system in each country.
The myth of ‘communities’
In Khan’s statement the attempt to imply that everyone in the West should be identified with their governments or that all Muslims have something in common might seem crude, but to turn to the spin-doctored sophistication of the advanced liberal democracies is not to find much difference.
Bush is derided as a buffoon wrapped in the US flag, but all of American mainstream politics is soaked in nationalist rhetoric. On top of that there’s the idea of two Americas, the red Republican states and the blue Democrat states. And then there’s the idea of the specific ‘ethnic’ communities that you’re supposed to identify with - African-American, Hispanic, Jewish etc.
In Britain years ago Norman Tebbitt was ridiculed for his insistence on everyone rooting for the English team in sporting events. But now it’s automatically assumed that everyone has a national side to support. It doesn’t matter if you support Jamaica, Ireland or India; you’re still locked into the nationalist framework. Also the addition of questions on ethnicity, religion and culture to the census is just one small sign that the US example is being taken up. The debates over ‘multiculturalism’ and segregation, or on assimilation against integration, all assume that there’s such a thing as a Muslim community, an Irish community, or even a ‘host community’. There is also the assumption that Northern Ireland is divided into a Catholic and Protestant community, or that all Londoners can be lumped together. All these bourgeois assumptions, whether emphasising ‘British values’ or the diversity of many ‘cultures’, only serve to reinforce the rule of the bourgeoisie.
For the working class, whether we’re united behind explicit British nationalism or divided into an array of communities, we will be defeated if we don’t start from an understanding of class interests. The working class, the class that has only its labour power to sell, is exploited by a capitalist class that has a parasitic existence leaching on the value workers create. Not only do we have to develop a sense of ourselves as a class, to understand the means and goals of our historic struggle; we also have to see clearly what the bourgeoisie is and the lies it tells to sustain its rule. Mohammad Khan said he was a soldier. Like so many other soldiers, he died having swallowed the lies of the ruling class.